Here Be Dragons: Integrating Agent Behaviors with Procedural Emergent Landscapes and Structures
Here Be Dragons is a virtual environment containing creatures and cities that have no direct human designer. Digital genes, defining a structure similar to a Lindenmeyer system, form both the agents and structures within the space. Each component of these genes contains behavioral as well as structural content, and their format allows alterations like genetic crossbreeding and mutation. Protocol exists for communication between the cities and inhabitants, allowing more intricate interactions.
The name “Here Be Dragons” refers to the unexplored regions found past the borders of old maps. The virtual space invites exploration, and to that end creature and city structures form novel shapes and behaviors as the user navigates the terrain. Explicitly authored spaces can only be as large as someone makes them, while traditional procedural spaces either become too predictable or too chaotic. Using algorithms traditionally reserved for virtual agents, as well as a mixture of techniques found in Artificial Life and other emergent schools of thought, the virtual space attempts to balance coherency with novelty. This approach has turned the typical production pipeline on its head. Traditional asset creation has been replaced with designing ways to generate and interpret pliable data. Upon completion of this design phase, a world can be generated in seconds.
The creatures have an enforced symmetry, and are rendered in silhouette, inviting analogies to birds, bats, viruses, and dragons. Each segment within a creature acts as its own state machine, its own actions rippling through the entire body, generation the illusion of animism. The cities take information similar to those of the creatures but instead use it to build walls, spires, and buttresses. While the underlying code can inform very concrete visuals, Here Be Dragons intentionally abstracts the forms, invoking an effect similar to a Rorschach inkblot.
As the line between agents and environment blurs, the potential for coherent interaction and visualization increases. A universal gene could potentially define 3D models, music, decision trees, and story flow within the same virtual space.